Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day

My buddy Dan has a good post on our U.S. Holiday Veteran's Day and WWI. World War I has always been an anomaly to me. Comparable to other wars, men killing each other in brutal fashion; yet, it was fought by digging deep trenches, infested with rats and disease- then there's the mustard gas and gas masks. This war and it's battles must have been hell: dark and deep in the bowels of mud, earth, and bodies. Trees, vegetation, and life were decimated- leaving what was coined a "waste land". The terrain was unlike anything before and from what I can gather, unlike anything we have seen since. The atomic bombs are comparable but the damage and mayhem different.

Also, this "war to end all wars" lead to canonical works: T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" and "The Hollow Men", J.R.R. Tolkien's series "Lord of the Rings", and a slew of wartime poetry and dystopian novels. Lastly, not only should we remember the ideals for which our soldiers fought, but we should also ground ourselves in the reality of the events through which they struggled. With that, I leave you with a World War I classic.

Wilfred Owen

Dulce Et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Explanatory notes on the poem available here.

1 comment:

pml said...

Such a great poem.